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Property from the May Family Collection

Girl Dressing Her Hair (Girl Arranging Her Headdress)

Girl Dressing Her Hair (Girl Arranging Her Headdress)
signed 'F.C. Frieseke-' (lower right)
oil on canvas
54 x 40 in. (137.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted by 1912.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
Meredith Long & Company, Houston, Texas.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1979.
John Herron Art Institute, Bulletin, vol. 11, January 1924, p. 2.
The Art News, November 13, 1926, p. 8.
J. Kutner, "America's Heritage in Dallas with Pride/DMFA Shows Best of City's Private Collections," The Dallas Morning News, September 25, 1982, p. 1.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 118th Annual Exhibition, February 4-March 25, 1923, no. 258.
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, The 36th Annual Exhibit of American Paintings and Sculpture, November 1-December 9, 1923, no. 77, illustrated.
Indianapolis, Indiana, The John Herron Art Institute, Annual Exhibition of Paintings by Contemporary Artists, 1924, no. 12.
New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, The New Society of Artists, 8th Annual Exhibition, November 13-December 4, 1926, no. 57.
Austin, Texas, Laguna Gloria Art Museum, American Impressionists from Texas Collections, April 3-May 22, 1980, no. 6.
College Station, Texas, Texas A&M University, The American Vision: Paintings from the C. Thomas May, Jr. Family Collection, pp. 46-47, illustrated.
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas Collects American Paintings: Colonial to Early Modern, September 16-November 14, 1982, p. 117, no. 46, illustrated (as Woman in a Striped Dress).
Amarillo, Texas, Amarillo Art Center, Georgia O'Keeffe & Her Contemporaries, September 7-December 1, 1985, no. 35, illustrated.
Huntsville, Alabama, Huntsville Museum of Art; New York, The Lotos Club, The May Family Collection of American Paintings, February 7-May 1, 1988, pp. 24-25, 58, no. 7, illustrated.
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, April 15-September 30, 1992.
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Art, July-September 2006, on loan.
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Art Museum, June 1-September 1, 2015, on loan.
Further details
This work is included in the draft Frieseke Catalogue Raisonné, compiled by Nicholas Kilmer, the artist’s grandson, with the support of the Hollis Taggart Galleries. That draft is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

Brilliant in scale, color and form, Girl Arranging Her Hair is an archetypal example of Frederick Carl Frieseke’s paintings of women during quiet moments of leisure. Superbly balancing sumptuous fabrics and textures with opulent, intricate patterns and an intriguing viewpoint, Girl Arranging Her Hair is arguably one of the artist’s most accomplished interior scenes from this period.

Frieseke was one of the leading figures among the second generation of American expatriates in France. He first studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York before leaving for Paris in 1898 to continue his studies. There Frieseke enrolled at the Académie Julian and also at the Académie Carmen, James McNeill Whistler’s short-lived school. Whistler's passion for Japanese art, for decoration and for distinctive color arrangements had a lasting influence on Frieseke's work. By 1900 he was spending summers in Giverny and, after achieving artistic and financial success, was able to purchase a home there in 1906. He chose American Impressionist Theodore Robinson’s former house next door to Claude Monet’s. Frieseke remained in Giverny for almost two decades, where the artist colony also included Americans Theodore Butler, Willard Metcalf, Richard Miller and Guy Rose.

In Girl Arranging Her Hair Frieseke shares an intimate view of his subject, depicting his model still in the midst of her final preparations behind closed doors before presenting herself in public. As she primps surrounded by cosmetics in a manicured space, the only view of her face is visible through the reflection in the mirror—inviting the viewer to contemplate what secrets this elegant woman may or may not reveal to the public eye. With the bold stripes of her dress and clean architectural lines offset by the lacy fabrics and lush flowers, the painting fully immerses the viewer within this nuanced private space of the modern woman.

Regarding the present work, David Dearinger writes, “Frieseke painted at least two other works which, though smaller, are near-replicas of the May picture. One of these, The Striped Gown, was sold from Macbeth Gallery in 1912 and another, Woman at a Mantel, is now in a private collection…The size of the present work would suggest that it represents the culmination of Frieseke’s examination of this subject and composition.” (The May Family Collection of American Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Huntsville, Alabama, 1988, p. 24). Another example similar in composition is in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.

The diverse palette of greens, blues, pinks, purples and yellows in the present work are characteristic colors of many of Frieseke’s most accomplished interiors. Indeed, the intricately patterned sofa and shawl make for a wondrous fusion of patterns and texture, which has striking parallels to the work of the Nabis, including Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, who often featured artfully posed female models in decorative interiors illuminated by natural light.

Frieseke's images of women are celebrated as some of the finest achievements of American Impressionism. His ability to manipulate light and imbue his models with an air of psychological independence makes him one of the most accomplished American Impressionist painters of the female figure. With its engaging perspective, rich textures and beautiful tonal harmonies, Girl Arranging Her Hair represents Frieseke at the height of his abilities.

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